If you don’t believe the tide turned long ago in favor of Boyhood winning best picture, the nominees spread across this year’s shorts categories remind us that existentialist angst has never been so obsessively on the mind of the AMPAS voter. And yet, the two shorts we feel most confident in ruling out here convey the process of aging on a path so linear that it almost appears square: A Single Life, about a young woman who stumbles upon a vinyl record that allows her to travel through her own life, doesn’t transcend its particularly uninspired premise, while the delightfully observed Feast, about a man’s life as seen through the eyes of a pooch with the appetite of longshoreman, is so perilously sweet as to be dangerous to the heart.
Me and My Moulton, about the realties that divide parents from their children, itself divided our team of soothsayers. While the assessment of the short’s animation ranged from “minimalist” to “IKEA-level,” its drollery was alternately praised for yielding poignant insights into suppressed desire and assailed (by our resident Scandinavian) for being “repulsively Scandinavian.” But filmmaker Torill Kove won here in 2006 for the similarly themed and styled The Danish Poet, and even Me and My Moulton’s most vocal detractor wasn’t remiss in acknowledging that this is the year that the Academy suddenly “got” Wes Anderson en masse. So the not-so-fine line we see the short walking between the twee and the enchanting may be, for voters, an invisible one.
The wrenching The Bigger Picture conveys the bitter emotional tussling between two brothers trying to cope with their mother’s mental and physical deterioration through a haunting mix of animation styles. But while Daisy Jacobs’s short isn’t without its wryly expressionist touches, its artful weirdness and incorporation of real-life spaces may be off-putting to some. Which leaves The Dam Keeper, a superbly nuanced tale about bullying and vengeance rendered in a style that modulates between fear and desire, light and shadow, with an emotiveness that’s close to flabbergasting. It’s as close to a slam-dunk as we’ve ever seen in this category.
Will Win: The Dam Keeper
Could Win: Me and My Moulton
Should Win: The Dam Keeper or The Bigger Picture